Dreamed 1990/8/21 by Chris Wayan
I'm a fat, fat, FAT man, hiking in a state park with my family. Redwoods. I see a burned stump with a fuzz of green coming up--stubborn trees! People could learn from redwoods. Survivors.
We reach a danger zone: a neck between two park groves. On either side are military reserves, and they use the woods there for mock wars. Old trails go into the wargame zone, blocked now by fences. The corridor is relatively open, and I feel exposed, a target for any battle-crazed trainees hiding in the woods. But we reach the far side, slide under barb wire (what a state park!) and I get caught briefly because I'm so damn fat. A hiker passes me and snickers; I lose my temper and yell "I'm not USED to this body--I'm usually THIN." My, my... touchy about it are we?
Well, you might be too, stuck in barb wire...
Turns out I was right to feel like a target--I am. Not of the Army, of the Gods! Well, strange powers that call themselves gods. Attack after attack... my friends and I can't hope to defeat them, just to survive long enough to build some immunity. We've heard it's possible.
The three of us are quite different, and different gods are after us. So we organize! Each of us knows one god's tricks well, so we each build a god-shield. Then we stand in a triangle and face INWARD, each between the other two, holding our particular shield out, protecting the other two people who have few defenses against that particular god. It opens each of us to attack from behind, but I for one don't like or respect the god I can defend against. I think my friends can warn me in time if he comes at me from behind.
One god's shield and color is a smooth, deep blood-red, one's mostly turquoise with pastel yellows whites and greens: looks like an islet in the Mediterranean. The third is bluish, but I forget the design or feeling.
We stand all night under attack. In the morning I'm proud--simple survival's a victory here. But one of my friends suddenly tosses down his shield. Its Mediterranean colors have faded! He's taken over--personality gone. The Mediterranean god inside him mocks us now, then walks calmly out of our triangle, aware we can do nothing to hurt him, despite the power we've learned, resisting gods.
I try to befriend a good-natured chipmunk-sized animal by fitting it onto one of my toes like a tiny sock. Try my smallest toe--but it's still uncomfortable. I know--it tells me so over and over. I'm as pushy as the gods are, to those smaller than me.
A girl in a red minidress walks up. I try to be friendly but I'm nervous--is she mortal or a god? We get to talking about Jonathan Carroll's books; she's reading his newest. The list of his books on the dust jacket is so long it's broken into columns: one titled "For Male Readers," that seems to feature male gods, a much shorter column of goddess books "For Female Readers", and a few odd books listed as "for Magical Readers," "for Kids", "for Alcoholics", and "for the Abused." Evidently he (or his publisher) thinks we all only read about creatures like us. Stupid! It bothers me the lists are so unequal, too. On the other hand, YOU probably thought "Magical Readers" meant human readers interested in magic--but that column is clearly for magical creatures who read Carroll to make some sense of those crazy humans! Either Carroll or his publisher has finally noticed an important subset of the fantasy readership who always get ignored. Progress.
This girl, well, goddess, but I keep forgetting that since she hasn't tried to kill me, says "Would you be interested in a temp job guarding some gods? After all you're immune to a lot of god-magic." On impulse I say, "well... only if you're gonna be around."
So I sign on and keep my eyes open. Learn what I can about them. She's all right; anyone who likes Jonathan Carroll has some sense of morality. But her friends! They treat their mortal servants casually, and kill those who seem to acquire the wrong sort of power or knowledge. Well, no, that's ascribing too much logic to them. Really, what I've learned is, the gods kill by whim.
Their latest project involves building great towers around a playground, creating an energy-fence. Fearing I'll be blasted if I stay near the gods when they turn the power on, I walk outside the perimeter... They seem to expect something from their soldiers, some reaction. I slowly notice more and more gods watching me and the few soldiers who are left... the rest failed the test, whatever it was. I don't know what to do, so I let intuition lead me: raise my arm and point at the top of the nearest framework tower, spread my hand, twist the flat shape... and the towerhead slowly twists to follow! Slowly, I bring the tower down. I shake in sudden terror--what am I now? I just showed enough power to make me dangerous, whether or not their purpose was to release powers in their.. creatures.
I'm tired of being afraid. This endless wary care--one slip away from death. And no love I can see.
Yet I live! And I'm not so sure they COULD kill me with a single blast, any more. And no one's tried. Was their experiment MEANT to teach us greater power?
What if their powers rub off? Are they, in some mad way, trying to TEACH us?
I just hope I don't learn their morals too.
WHEN I WAKE
When I wake, I go back to sleep without writing this down! That's why it's so much more "dreamlike" (that is, discontinuous) than most of my dreams--my memories are from hours later. Where'd my family get to, who are these gods, what's my weight-loss trick, and where's my other friend? Beats me. I think I wanted to blur the memory of this dream--I was just too uncomfortable to face that I'm acquiring a lot more power than I used to have, and I'm afraid I'll misuse it, like the dream-gods... even though I had an example of one goddess who managed to be powerful without being mean.
I just read Jonathan Carroll's SLEEPING IN FLAME; and the grim eco-political warnings in EARTH by David Brin show up in the dream too.
I also see references to Robert Holdstock's MYTHAGO WOOD. But I didn't read that til the next day. We don't want to blur this sacrilegious notion of gradual gods by tossing in ESP, now, do we?
Unless, of course, that's one step.
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